Play it Again. And Again, And Again, And…

Lulu Belle and Short Stack are down for the night and here I sit, in the young evening, wondering what projects I can get into. Tonight, I’m solo. Well, not if you count the bundle of pink fluff in the crib, and the snoring boy, but I am the only one awake. Action Girl has a new schedule and with it comes one night per week when she is unable to make it home. She has a good friend in town with a spare room and though she naturally hates being away from her children, she also gets the opportunity to sleep through the entire night with out interruption; something that hasn’t happened in this house for almost three years now. An opportunity like a sleep filled night is beyond rare in our lives at the moment, so at least that can take some of the sting out of being forced away from home it a bit.

So, what to do when trapped in the house with a sleeping baby?… Hmmm.

One of the issues I have to deal with is that, A: our house needs an astonishing quantity of work done to it, and B: I can’t do any of it because it all involves power tools and hammering. Lulu Belle would most defiantly not approve, though Short Stack would likely jump at the chance to help, even if dressed in nothing more than his blue helicopter and airplane PJ’s.

So, as I sit in my small, open concept house, I try to do only the things that would make the least possible noise. Naturally, in a totally silent house, just about anything creates noticeable noise that would wake the kiddos, and so I’d pretty much be left with darning socks and brushing the cat. What I need is audio camouflage! What I use is Norah Jones.


Various artists have been employed in my search for the perfect cover for my evening bumblings around the house while babes sleep fitfully in their respective rooms. Classical is good but can get too soaring at times and the brass section, too triumphant during the crescendo. Ambient music is a good alternate as well but lacks vocals to mask the hushed phone conversations or the actual chatting done with my wife when she’s home in the evening. Vocals are also handy for smothering my hissed expletives, shot out from between clenched teeth when I inevitably stub my foot on a chair or toy truck. As Action Girl has pointed out on many occasions, a stealthy panther of the night, I am not.

So, Norah Jones fits the bill and I can honestly say, I just about can’t stand her any more. There was a time, long before munchkins invaded our home, that I really liked Miss Jones. Her voice, her songs, her presentation… I really, really liked her. After the gazillionth listening though, I’m cooked. This is not the first time this has happened to me, but it is the latest.

I can recall, years ago, the first time I burned out on an album. This is back when albums were big, flat, black and made of vinal. I had experienced one of those magical, youthful moments of ecstasy that we all seem to go through at some point. The moment you fall completely in love with an album. You love it. You live it.

YOU understand it, MAN!

It’s not just music! It’s way purer than that! The normal outcome of this euphoria is to listen to it over and over again until it fuses with your brain. I had fused with this particular album and had proceeded through all the steps of discovery, adoration and finally, was just setting it aside for the next musical infatuation. Then, the guy down the hall discovered it too.

To be fair, he did nothing worse than I did. He just did it at a time when I had moved on and was looking at new listening pleasures. Being in college, he did what everyone else did and played the hell out of it with the door open and the volume turned up to eleven. With the incessant replaying of this one album stacked on top of all my own incessant replaying, I started to crack. Finally, with its twenty-fifth iteration in the same afternoon, I was forced to explain to him that it was time to either find something else to play or witness a sad and terminal fate befall his stereo. With a judicious quantity of grumbling, he shut his door and turned it down to nine. Very considerate of him considering our age.

I still can’t listen to that album.

The next overload was far more evil because I never really cared for it in the first place. Immediately after I graduated, I took a managing job in a downtown store. We sold beads, rocks, hacky sacks, rain sticks AND… music. The genre was classified as “World Music” and it was all we were allowed to play by the sadistic owner. The owner, I should add, rarely worked behind the counter, had an office far away from any speakers, plus had his own radio which mysteriously never seemed to be tuned to world music. He never had to listen to the endless loop being run over and over again of Brasileiro or hideous third-string-folk-musicians in the store for more than a few minutes a day. I, on the other had been quickly loosing my mind to the sounds of traditional South American festival music. Every noon, our evil overlord would leave for a couple of hours for an extended lunch, and I, the disloyal underling, would immediately toss in some other music in an effort to cling to my diminishing sanity. I was always thoughtful when I selected the CD’s to smuggle into the store in preparation of my musical interlude and never played anything that would have been inappropriate to hear in your average retail shop. It all made good background music. It just didn’t involve maracas, pan flutes or incessant, repetitive refrains from songwriters who should have stuck with their day jobs.

The trick with my subversive behavior was that I never knew the exact return time of the owner. It was like the feeling you had when you were looking at some friend’s father’s Playboy Magazine. You loved every minute of it but were just waiting for the inevitable, “What the heck is going on here!?” coming from the doorway. The anticipation of being found out seriously cramped the enjoyment, but you did it any way. I also, naturally, got caught on more than one occasion.

Listening to the music, that is.

They never caught me looking at the Playboys.

I worked at that shop for about a year and a half and was so scarred by my musical ordeal that I find the prospect of traveling to South America and possibly being subjected to the live version of this torture makes me want to scamper up a tree and hide.

So now, Norah is just starting her gazillionth and first time around on the iPod and I’m doing my best to blot her out. I could find a good substitute for her, I know. I have an absurd quantity of music to listen to, but here’s the thing. I like my other music… and I want to keep it that way. Norah Jones has become my musical work shirt, if you will. She’s stained, ripped, dirty and has paint spattered on one sleeve. I have lots of other shirts I could put on, but then I’ll just start wearing them out too. No. I’ll stick with her for a bit longer rather than start to burn through some other well enjoyed album or artist. This works for now.

Some day, far in the future, my son or daughter will no doubt play some Norah Jones in the evening and will wonder why dad’s starting to twitch. Hopefully, they won’t decide that she’s the best thing ever and that she must be replayed again.. and again.. and again… and…

8 Responses

  1. My mom used to alternate between Crystal Gayle’s Greatest Hits and Kenny Roger’s Greatest Hits all day long. It was painful but I know every word of those two albums.

    In my house it was Abba. I can say, with out a doubt, that I can sing along with any.. ANY Abba song you can throw my way. I’m not just talking about “Super Trouper” or “Mamma Mia” here. I’m talking about knowing “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and “Does your mother know”

    Oddly enough, not only am I not shamed in the slightest by this, but I actually have a good deal of it on my iPod. Good working music!

  2. hahaha, I recognize your predicament. Used to work in a supermarket with this horrid buy-more-and-more muzak tape going round and round.

    Try the soundtrack to Battlestar Galactica, it’s nice and not terribly noisy. My sister likes Emiliana Torrini, if you can get a hold of her music (hmm, probably on itunes), I also find To Rid the Disease by Opeth a great song – haven’t found another of theirs without the hard rock screaming, which I can’t stand.

    I actually have the Battlestar Galactica theme! Never thought of using it until you pointed it out. Thanks for the leads! I’ll check them out. Happily for me, Lulu Belle seems to like my louder musical selections when she’s up. Yesterday when Action Girl and Short Stack (who both dislike ‘noisy’ music) were out, we were rocking out to some good 80’s music. The Police, Violent Femms and Talking Heads.


  3. I liked the “musical work shirt” idea.
    I use Jack Johnson stuff when I’m trying to think on the computer.
    Around the house … Journey is a safe bet … if I haven’t got sick of their stuff after 30 years, I’m probably immuned.

    We listen to a lot of Mr. Johnson here too. I have a hard time writing when he’s on, but he often is the #2 selection when I’m looking for something to play during nap time. Gotta love Journey, but I doubt it would make good sleeping music.

  4. I’m going to throw in my suggestion of Nina Simone “Best of the Blues”, now that is an album that will change your life…

    Oh, don’t you worry! We get a lot of Nina Simone played here. She’s often found on the stereo during the evening, especially dinner time. Or, we might be playing some Johnny Lee Hooker. He’s another favorite.

  5. Norah was a friend’s boyfriend’s roommate in Denton. Not the easiest person to get along with apparently…

    My brother ruined Pink Floyd for me. Years of full volume Dark Side of The Moon at the end of the corridor tested my love and to this day, I twitch.

    A stealthy panther of the night? Where do you guys come up with these things? 🙂

    Oddly enough, While Lulu Belle is napping at this moment, we are listening to “Wish You Were Here”. I almost killed Pink Floyd for my self years ago but had the sense to bail out at the last minute and find something else to listen to before I couldn’t stand it any more. I remember days when I would load my seven CD changer with nothing by Floyd, starting off with “Dark Side” then on to “The Wall” and end with “The Final Cut”. By the end, if I had actually listened to all seven disks, it made Morrissey sound like the the Andrews Sisters. That much Floyd in one hit could bum out the Dalai Lama. Why the hell did I used to do that?


  6. At the end of last year I almost overdid it with Nouvele Vague, am still very glad that I stopped in time. But they just sounded so irresistable.
    Managed to keep Norah special though because of two reasons – never bought the CD although I liked it a lot, plus was lucky that they played her on a super romantic occasion so I always connect it to that place and feeling – chilling out our evening with good drinks, overlooking the sea and no kids to worry about 🙂

  7. How about Basia? Spyro Gyra has enough stuff out there that you could listen for hours and never come back to the same song twice. They’re not heavy on the vocals, but they’re easy to listen to. How about music from Baby Einstein? They have sleep and lullaby selections, which might be good for developing gray matter. Hey, they even have a World Music CD that might bring back memories for you! Can you move the speakers closer to the kids’ rooms so it’s less noticeable for you?

  8. Bruce Springsteen’s “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions” is something I absolutely never get tired of. If you are not listening to this, I insist you begin immediately or turn in your friend card!

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